Tory donor’s knighthood is sign Sunak ‘believes he’s on way out’, Labour says | Conservatives


Rishi Sunak’s decision to hand a knighthood to a businessman and former Egyptian government minister who donated £5m to the Conservative party is the sign of a prime minister who “simply believes he’s on the way out”, Labour has said.

Mohamed Mansour, a senior treasurer of the Tory party for just over a year, was among surprise recipients of honours unexpectedly announced late on Thursday, who also included a series of Conservative MPs.

While the citation for Mansour said the knighthood was for business, charity and political service, Anneliese Dodds, the Labour chair, said it appeared clearly tied to his donation to the Tories.

“This seems to be either the action of an incredibly arrogant prime minister who just doesn’t care what the public thinks, or someone who’s effectively demob happy, and not thinking he’s going to stay in that role as prime minister,” she told Sky News. “Really, I think the public are going to be quite appalled by this news today.

“I think there are big questions for Rishi Sunak to be answering yet again today. And as I say, it seems to indicate that either he doesn’t care what the public thinks, or he simply believes he’s on the way out as the prime minister, so he doesn’t need to worry about this any more.”

Asked if Labour would definitively rule out giving honours to political donors, Dodds said not, but stressed that there would have to be some wider merit.

“Labour has been clear, we believe that honours should be there to reward people who have made that contribution to our public life,” she said.

“There shouldn’t be an automatic pass through for somebody who has made a huge donation to a political party, then being rewarded in that manner. There are philanthropists who give money to a whole range of different causes. But this is unique, because we’re talking here about, at the time, the biggest-ever donor to the Conservatives.”

At the time of his donation, Mansour’s £5m was the biggest the party had received. Since then, the businessman Frank Hester has given £10m, and reportedly offered another £5m.

Labour has previously called for the Tories to hand back £5m donated by Mansour, who served as transport minister in Egypt under the military ruler Hosni Mubarak’s regime in 2005-09 before the Arab spring.

The opposition called for Sunak to return the donation last year after it emerged one of Mansour’s family companies had still been operating in Russia after the invasion of Ukraine.

The firm, Mantrac, said in May 2023 that it was winding down its business in Russia, more than a year after Moscow’s war drew international condemnation and calls from Sunak and Boris Johnson for businesses to withdraw.

Mansour was joined in receiving a knighthood by Demis Hassabis, the founder of the artificial intelligence company DeepMind, and by the film-making couple Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas, who will receive a knighthood and a damehood respectively. The US businessman Ted Sarandos, the co-chief executive of Netflix, was given an honorary knighthood.

The backbench MP Philip Davies, and Mark Spencer, a former chief whip under Johnson, were also knighted, while Tracey Crouch, a former minister, was made a dame along with the Treasury committee chair, Harriett Baldwin.

The move to award a series of honours before the Easter recess may renew speculation that Sunak is weighing whether to call a summer election.

A Downing Street source explained the timing by saying the government had needed to publish a new list of MPs on the privy council, and that this was seen as a chance to recognise people from the worlds of entertainment and AI, as well as politicians and the likes of Mansour, who was being honoured for his charitable works.

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